Three Women: Ice (Jo Grant)

The drowned world

He hadn't wanted to go to the gathering but Ianto had been characteristically persuasive. A chance to meet the family, he said. Jack didn't really hold with families. Most of the time they seemed to end up causing heartache or hysteria. Or worse — they interfered.

He'd met Mam. She'd eyed him up suspiciously and thankfully moved off leaving a beaming Ianto exclaiming "I knew she'd like you." Next up for introduction was a gross figure with pale clammy flesh who Jack swore had been introduced as 'Auntie Sycorax'.  Auntie had been accompanied by two similarly endomorphic children who revolved around her like moons. Despite close scrutiny he hadn't quite discerned their gender when Ianto took him on a whirlwind tour of cousins, second cousins and a host of people who seemed only to be there because they shared the same surname.

In the following hour he lost count of the Daffyds, Blodwyns, Jos and Dais in the hall. Most had greeted him with the sort of convivial bonhomie that normally made him want to reach for a gun. A few had blinked disapprovingly at this alien figure from London and lapsed into thankful silence. Those instances made the evening almost bearable.


The short woman whose fingers were dripping with rings sidled up to him again, another glass of gin in her hand. "How's it going Captain?" Her voice was raspy; too many cigarettes or too much alcohol he thought, but she sounded sober, if a little tipsy.

"I'm afraid I don't know your name."

"Oh Captain," the woman exclaimed in mock hurt. "I've told you three times already this evening."

Jack sieved his brain for a clue. He had spoken to her earlier but hadn't really been paying attention. "Iris?"

"Close but no cigar." She giggled. "But if it's Iris you remember then I'll be Iris for you. It has a certain wild ring about it." She pirouetted on high heels miraculously failing to spill any of her drink. "Wild Iris at your service, my Captain."

"And not Welsh either."

"Oh, I married into the clan. Ianto's uncle — the environmentalist." A myopic eye surveyed the / assembled hordes. "They're a strange bunch but they're good people, on the whole. Slightly too many sisters marrying their brothers though if you get my drift…"


She took a tiny sip of gin as if to taste the waters then downed the glass in one. "Don't mind me ducky. I speak it like I see it."

Jack cast his own eye around the crowd looking vainly for a man who might turn out to be Iris' better half. "And is your husband here?"

"No dear. He left me midway through a trip up the Amazon to run off with the eldest son of the chief of the Pinyoni tribe. Made off in the middle of the night taking all the tribe's pigs with them too." There was a wistful sigh. "I don't know what I missed more on the journey back. The sex or the bacon."

She took a sip from her drink again. At some stage she'd managed to get a refill though Jack didn't remember any of the waiters coming close. "Still, they were an inventive tribe. Do you know the Pinyoni created primitive vibrators out of hollow branches and a handful of jumping beans?" The rings on her hands tinkled against the glass. "Surprisingly effective too."

Jack's eyes bulged. A practised glance looked around for an avenue of escape. Auntie Sycorax waved at them from the buffet table. Her twins were busy engorging themselves on cocktail sausages and cold pizza.

Iris rolled her eyes. "I can never make out what that bloody woman is saying. She refuses to get dentures whilst there's a single tooth in her mouth so she spends half the time gobbling like Gollum."

Despite trying hard not to, a chuckle escaped Jack's throat.

She smiled up at him. "I like you. You sound as if you've seen the world. Clifford was like that too."


"My ex. He and Kimmy live in California now. They train small animals for Hollywood." She finished off the glass in one hand and started on a second she'd also managed to miraculously acquire. "You should see the tricks their gerbils can do."

"I think I ought to—"

"Nonsense Captain." Iris grasped his arm and steered him towards the buffet table. "You are a real captain aren't you? It's not a Village People phase you and Yan are going through?"

"I'm a real Captain."

"That's nice. Yan always had a thing about uniforms." She popped a vol-au-vent into his mouth unbidden. "I'm glad he's found a nice man to be with. He was always a bit shy with sex. At one stage I thought I might have to step in and show him the ropes."

The vol-au-vent caught in Jack's throat making him cough madly.

"Careful ducky." She patted him on the back, the rings biting into his flesh through his shirt. "You need to remember when to swallow." A swig from her gin. "Alright Fran?" This was aimed at Auntie Sycorax. "Nice do, isn't it?" The hideous creature nodded violently and its mouth flapped open exposing a single tooth.

Hurriedly Iris wheeled Jack away. "She always reminds me of Caliban's mother. Have you seen her children? A perfect example of parthenogenesis. Nearest that woman ever came to a man was an hour with a turkey baster during the miners' strike."

Jack tried to take command of the discussion. Last thing he wanted to do was cause a fracas with Ianto's relatives. "Do you have any children?"

"Oh no, ducky. My insides were all wrong." Iris looked down at her diamante dress, a wisp of grey-blonde hair falling free of her fascinator. "I had my bits whipped out years ago. They're probably pickled in a university faculty somewhere." She finished yet another drink. Jack was beginning to think the glass was dimensionally transcendental. "Tell me, Captain. Does Yan still worry about his size?"

She was, he thought, the perfect example of why 'Give Way' signs were necessary on roads. "Mrs Clifford Jones? Not the Professor Clifford Jones who won a Nobel Prize in the early Seventies for ecology?"

"The same." Iris said raising her glass. "I'll drink to that." Somewhere the second tumbler had vanished into the ether as impossibly as it had arrived.

"Then you're Jo Grant who worked for UNIT."

She pulled a face. "UNIT and I are not on speaking terms any more. I got kicked out." She looked thoughtful for a moment. "Although I'm sure technically I resigned before they did so. It was the seventies. From their point of view my husband had run off with a nignog, and a male one at that. I was therefore a security risk."

"That hardly seems fair," Jack muttered grimly, knowing full well how he'd cope with racism.

"Oh don't you worry ducky. This gal sent a nice letter off to the Colonel telling him I hoped his balls shrivelled up."

"That's what he deserved."

There was a mischievous look on her face. "I don’t think he minded the letter so much as the attachment. I posted a tampon with it. It was only a few days old."

"Remind me never to get on the wrong side of you!" Jack chuckled as she pivoted him around again to face the food.

A bejeweled finger pointed directly at the sausage rolls. "I'm starving. I think the coast is clear and Fran's offspring seem to have left one or two morsels. Shall we partake of the feast?"

He let himself be pulled towards the table.

"There was one thing I meant to ask, Captain. Ianto's never said which one of you tops?"